KPL career workshops help guide newcomer youth through future in Kitchener

KW Multicultural Centre's "Let's talk" workshop series offers support and resources for young people who are new to Canada. The program is held at the Kitchener Public library, as part of a federal strategy to create a resource hub for newcomers.

'Let's Talk' program helps newcomer youth navigate their new lives in Kitchener-Waterloo

Jaiee Satpute is a former participant turned student volunteer of the "Let's Talk" workshop series. (Alexandra Burza / CBC)

A "summer camp" underway at Kitchener Public Library is helping newcomer youth figure out what they want to do with their lives and to get to know their new homes. 

The KW Multicultural Centre's workshop series called "Let's Talk" has been condensed into two weeks and is on at KPL to give newcomer students a summer-camp-like experience. 

The aim of the program is to make their adjustment into Canadian life easier, says program coordinator Anika Williams-Hewitt.

The program is for young people aged 14 to 21.

Through art, field trips and group discussion, Williams-Hewitt and her volunteers do career counselling and help participants navigate community resources. 

"The true base of it was from seeing that need in the community and also just wanting to provide a space where youth can feel heard and represented," she said.

"We've seen growth in youth who, when they first come, they're really shy, they're very reserved. And then, throughout you see them opening up and their personalities coming out, and they're connecting with other people," Williams-Hewitt said.

The workshops are held at the KPL as part of the federal government's Library Settlement Program. The program funds workshops in public libraries in cities with high newcomer populations. 

"We see a lot of newcomers not just accessing our adult resources but also we see a lot of newcomers with their families in the children's department too," said information services librarian Erica Dudszus.

"They're getting exposure not just to language learning but also kind of the social supports and community supports that are here."

Navigating a new life

Jaiee Satpute is a former participant of Let's Talk, and returned as a student volunteer.

After moving to Canada last year, Satpute went to the workshops hoping to meet friends. She didn't expect the workshop would spark her interest in pursuing a career in film production, she says.

I did not know, like, a lot about the transportation system ... and now I do. And so it helped me tackle a big kind of obstacle.- Jaiee Satpute

"They brought in people to talk to according to what your interests are, and I think that's really cool. That really helped me know about other career paths too," Satpute said.

The workshops bring in guest speakers, usually immigrants themselves, who work in the desired professions of the participants. Williams-Hewitt says the programming is designed to recognize that young newcomers have a tougher time navigating their career and education in a new place with limited social connections. 

But there are other benefits.

"I did not know a lot about the transportation system," Satpute said. "And now I do. And so it helped me tackle a big kind of obstacle."

For the participants of "Let's Talk," Williams-Hewitt believes becoming familiar with the public library will help serve as an entry-point to feeling connected to the Kitchener-Waterloo community.

"Once they leave the program, to feel like 'OK I know where I can access my resources, I have the support of the librarians,'" she said.

"So that's another friendly face who says: 'You're here, and you belong.'"

The special summer camp version of Let's Talk wraps up Friday afternoon.

Anika Williams-Hewitt is the program coordinator of "Let's Talk." (Alexandra Burza / CBC)


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